Sabah changes law to allow 18-year-olds to run in state elections

Julia Chan
State Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Mokhtar at the Sabah legislative assembly in Kota Kinabalu November 21, 2019. — Picture via Facebook/Aidi Mokhtar

KOTA KINABALU, Nov 21 — In a whopping 55-majority decision, the Sabah legislative assembly passed a Bill today to lower the age of election candidates from 21 to 18.

State Law and Native Affairs Minister Datuk Aidi Mokhtar said the amendment was made to be in line with Parliament’s move to lower the voting age as well as the qualifying age to contest in a general election.

The Bill to amend the Constitution of the State of Sabah Article 16 was supported by 55 assemblyman out of the total 65. Ten were absent from the House when the vote was taken.

At the second vote taking, the majority increase to 57, with eight still absent. Seven lawmakers, including two Opposition members debated the Bill.

Aidi said that Sabah is the first state to change its law following the amendment of federal laws in July to lower the voting age and become MPs.

The amendment will allow the younger generation to be part of the policy making process as well as provide an avenue for them to be actively involved in politics.

“To the best of my knowledge, Sabah is the first state to respond to the call by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to amend its state constitution to correspond with the lowering of the voting age passed in Parliament.

“This Bill is in line with the Age of Majority Act 1971 and also with the United Nations and international convention, everywhere in the world people are lowering the age.

“This shows that the government is sensitive to the role of the young in Sabah so that they can be policymakers for the good of the state,” said the Pantai Manis assemblyman.

On doubts raised by Tambunan assemblyman Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan on the maturity of 18 year olds in Sabah, Aidi said that some 15 year olds were more mature than some adults.

“We are aware there would be pros and cons such as they might just have finished their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examinations but don’t forget there are 15-year-olds who are smarter than adults.

“We are confident that despite their young age, they are capable of speaking their mind,” he said.

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